Archive | August, 2013

Birmingham South & Central CCG – our digital journey

14 Aug

Last week I interviewed Amos Mallard, who works for Birmingham South and Central CCG about their work on digital engagement with the public.

Question 1 – What do you believe is the benefit of public engagement with a CCG?

The NHS has been pretty amazing over the last 65 years, but it faces huge challenges in the future. Costs are rising, people are getting more complex conditions and living longer, and our financial outlook in the UK isn’t encouraging. I would argue that it’s never been more important for the public to engage with the NHS. Engagement (when it’s done properly) helps patients and communities understand the issues and develop the solutions. The benefit of engaging with your local CCG is the opportunity to shape and improve the local services you use. There are other benefits too, like connecting with your community and developing self-efficacy with your health.

Question 2 – How have you used social media to engage people?

We’re in the formative stages of using social media. The approach we’ve taken has been organic really; connecting with interesting and relevant people and organisations, trying to build genuine relationships and not be too corporate or ‘broadcasty’. We recognise that social media is an important component in our communications, so we want to try and build a credible base from which to engage people.

Question 3 – What do you believe have been the benefits of using social media?

For one, it’s cost effective and gives you access to a range of stakeholders you might miss if you weren’t using social media. It also lets you go where the conversations are already happening. We don’t need to build our own empire of groups and meetings, we can dip in to what’s already there and that’s really powerful. Another benefit has been the connections with other statutory agencies, VSOs and the third sector which allow us to coordinate messages across our accounts and spread the word quickly. That’s proven useful on a day-to-day basis and will be useful during crises.

Question 4 – What skills do you think are most important in using these tools?

Having an authentic voice is essential. Developing engaging content is important as well. It’s useful to understand how to analyse and monitor what’s going on in order to be as data driven as you can.

Question 5 – Are there any barriers or difficulties that arise for you in carrying out this style of engagement?

Using social media (NHS digital mavens aside) is a cultural shift for the NHS. Health is several steps behind business in the sense that we’re still afraid of using open channels and not having complete control. It’s not been a barrier for us personally as we have some experience in social media.

Question 6 – What do you see as the next steps for digital and the CCG?

I’d be really happy if, in perhaps two years, we were able to articulate and evidence that we made a positive change by using digital. That’s what engagement is all about for me. The ethics of transparency and accountability are good and right, but I also want engagement to make a difference and improve the NHS. We’re launching a redesigned website soon and we’ve aimed to make it open and engaging. We want to use narrative for change, so there’ll be opportunities for people to blog for us and share their stories. There’s still some content development to do, but I think it will support what we’re trying to achieve.

Question 7 – Which organisations do you look to for inspiration and ideas?

There are so many creative individuals and organisations out there it’s difficult to say. I like the way Comic Relief empower poeple to make change in such a simple and engaging way. Macmillan do a fantastic job of coalescing people around a shared purpose. I think any organisation who can deliver a message creatively and effectively deserve praise; it’s not always easy to be heard above the digital din these days, so anyone who manages it is doing well.

Question 8 – Do your CCG members take an interest in digital tools and the feedback or questions you receive this way?

They do. Some don’t particularly want to use social media, the majority are really interested in what’s being said. We ran a live social media session for the board quite recently to show them that people are listening and want to engage, Fortunately it worked well; I had nightmares of putting questions out to twitter and sitting in silence with the board members waiting for responses. We had plenty of activity, so everything was okay. In terms of digital tools we tend to use as many as possible to share information and maximise resources. It’s not always easy for people to use a new tool, but once they see the benefit they’re usually converted.

Final thoughts….

All of this is a journey; CCGs are new organisations with a lot to learn. I think BSC is doing pretty well. mostly because we are open to suggestions, keen to be authentic and really care about the communities we serve.

amos (3)

Amos Mallard, Birmingham South & Central CCG Follow on twitter @BSC_CCG






Can democracy survive politics?

7 Aug

My short answer is I hope so. Though I am not part of the anti-party politics crew, I do feel that party politics has a job to do to reconnect and be meaningful if people are to value democracy. That, along with the economy, should be our top priority for all parties in my opinion.

Why am I even wondering about it? Here are a few things that have been whizzing through my brain and digital timelines the last few days:

i loved this 300 seconds but though brilliant,  it was explaining how to ‘play the game’ according to current rules whereas I think the rules need to change. I have worked for charities as someone who helps people do these line by line type consultations, and yes this is a better way of drafting policy and legislation as experts can help ensure implementation does achieve the spirit and intent.

I worked on this project which was pitched for a NESTA innovation grant, and whilst it wasn’t successful in round two, the project really inspired me. This speaks to me about rules of engagement changing. Of the Councillor acting as a part of a ward network rather than viewing Councillors as part of a bureaucratic hierarchy. Of public meetings being ones where the public set the agenda rather than are allowed in to watch the theatre of full council.
Finally a tweet came through my timeline which said something like ‘can democracy survive politics?’ and I now cannot find it, sorry, but if you tweet or leave a comment, will happily credit. Because like all simple questions, there is a really complex answer. And it’s not just about politician’s behaviour…though that’s as a good a place as any to start with!
There is a £4.2million democratic engagement fund to help get people registered to vote – deadlines are quite soon but I hope that a quality project for Brighton and Hove bids successfully.

Clinical Commissioning Groups…fancy doing a survey?

6 Aug

I have recently been doing the monumental task of looking through each of the 211 new clinical commissioning groups (these replaced Primary Care Trusts) websites. Clinical Commissioning Groups are a flagship health policy of the Coalition, giving spending control of 60% of the NHS budget to groups of practitioners – notably General Practitioners or GPs. They have been told to be transparent, and must hold at least one public meeting per year. They went live in April this year after a one year shadow phase.

So you want to know what your local clinical commissioning group is doing? What characteristics do these websites have?

  • They all tell you who the Board members are…but few give any possible way to contact them. Many do provide a secretariat email and phone number and how to submit questions at the meeting.
  • Some are acting as groups and when you try to find out who is responsible for engagement, they tell you they outsource this…sadly the people they signpost you to tell you that this is NOT part of their contract
  • Some have a social media presence but many don’t even have an obvious email address but instead you have to use a web contact form – maybe it’s just me, but I hate those. Plus my email address has an unusual but valid ending and these forms won’t accept it
  • Many have a lot of empty sections
  • Most signpost the public to PALs and Healthwatch
  • Most have a survey
  • All give Freedom of Information details
  • Many phone numbers are based in other health settings and receptionists sometimes struggle to put you through to the CCG itself
  • Some have really great newsletters
  • Some have lovely videos introducing themselves

The very best examples I found so far were in Birmingham, with commitments to live streaming meetings, blogs and really good social media presences. A strong example was also found in Cannock Chase with a CCG TV page. Stafford and Surrounds also have their own CCG TV page. I also liked Dr Vicky Playdell (Chief Clinical Officer – Hambleton, Richmondshire & Whitby CCG) blog – Vicky’s Voice

I found the London area CCG’s the most difficult to find information on the whole – although, if you have any examples I might have missed please let me know and I will happily update this post.

There is a lot of work to be done, unless engagement means turning up to watch a board meeting or filling in a survey where someone else has decided what they want you to talk about.

Some twitter feedback added 12.30 7/8/13

CCGs blog twitter feedback1

CCGs blog twitter feedback2

CCGs blog twitter feedback1